Depression and schizophrenia ‘should be treated with therapy’

Psychological therapy should be offered to every person in the country with depression, anxiety or schizophrenia, says a report from an influential group of health professionals published today.

Only one in four people with these common mental illnesses receives any treatment, and often they are given drugs, says the mental health policy group of the centre for economic performance at the London School of Economics. Yet the government’s advisory body, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice), says psychological therapies work best.

Psychological therapy costs £750 to treat one person, says the report, backed by four mental health charities and the Royal College of GPs.

Expanding mental health services would be a huge investment, but it would pay for itself in savings to the NHS and increased productivity. The authors of the report, led by Professor Richard Layard, say they want to see the guidance from Nice implemented.

One person in six could be diagnosed at some time with chronic anxiety or depression, which means that one in three families is affected, says the report. “Crippling depression and chronic anxiety are the biggest causes of misery in Britain today.”

But, it says, most GPs can only offer medication and perhaps a little counselling. This is a waste of lives and money, the report says. One million people are on incapacity benefit because of mental illness - more than the number unemployed. Mind, Rethink, the Mental Health Foundation and the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health said that access to talking therapies “should be as big a priority for the NHS as any other proven cost-effective treatment”.

  * Sarah Boseley, health editor
  * The Guardian, Monday 19 June 2006 12.01 BST

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